Travelers and history buffs are drawn to the enigmatic Land of Cities known as Arkaim, located in the southern Chelyabinsk Region. You may learn about the prehistoric culture here and ascend Mount Shamanka to make a wish. We're going on an quest to greet the sun in the morning, touch the dried-out grass, take photos with a windmill in the background, visit Stone Age ruins, and enter a strange new universe!
"For a very long time, visiting Arkaim has been a goal of ours. We decided right away that we would stay here for a few days, as the reserve is some 5-6 hours from Chelyabinsk. We wanted to immerse ourselves in the atmosphere, leisurely explore all the ancient sites, and take a guided tour. The trip promised to be a scorching one, both in terms of intensity and the weather. In the summer, there are spells when the temperature here rarely goes below 30-35 C, after all. We were ready for that, however; we put on light-colored clothes, loaded up on water, threw our caps on, and sped off."
Museum of Nature and Man
We advise starting at the Museum of Nature and Man (2A Muzeynaya St., Arkaim) as you go around the Arkaim historical and cultural reserve. The two-story museum complex showcases objects depicting the culture of the peoples and tribes that inhabited the Southern Ural steppes throughout history.
The stones come alive and talk in the guides' voices, telling how the Arkaim valley and its surroundings were formed. The excavation findings date back to the Stone and Iron Ages. The transparent shelves showcase the implements the prehistoric people who lived in these territories used in labor and everyday life. Visitors may see the treasures our predecessors left behind in great quantities throughout the reserve. These are vessels, knives, arrowheads, jewelry, weapons, and much more.
The design of the Arkaim burg and the exhibit, providing an inside look at nomadic life, particularly piqued the interest of our heroes. A life-size replica of a war chariot is displayed in the second-floor hallway. You can even take up a spear and pretend to be a Bronze Age warrior!
We recommend booking your tour of the museum complex and the Arkaim Nature Reserve in advance. Select a path that interests you and allows you to visit one or more locations at once. The museum tickets can be bought on site. Cost of the tour: RUB 350 (full), RUB 250 (subsidised). Duration: 1 hour. Order tours by phone at +7-900-028-61-17.
Other tour options
- Journey to Ancient Arkaim: it involves visiting an archaeological excavation, as well as a trip to an Arkaim home, also known as the Museum of Furnaces. Duration: 2.5 hours. Cost: RUB 600 (full), RUB 400 (subsidised).
- Creation of a Home: it involves a trip to an Arkaim home, as well as to Stone Age ruins and a Cossack homestead. Duration: 2.5 hours. Cost: RUB 550 (full), RUB 350 (subsidised).
- Eco trail in the Valley of Arkaim. Duration: 1-1.5 hours. Cost: RUB 600 (full), RUB 400 (subsidised).
The full list of tours may be seen on the reserve's official website.
Walled burg of Arkaim (21st-23rd centuries BC)
A trip to a Bronze Age excavation site and a tour of the ancient people's dwelling and homestead are a must. You will take a brief stroll through the steppe to reach Arkaim, the unique settlement located in the valley's center. Scientists discovered this archaeological site in the late 1980s and kept researching it until 1995. The location gained recognition outside of the Urals thanks to the archaeologist Gennady Zdanovich and a team of scholars working under his direction.
The burg, complete with a central square, dwellings, walls, and a moat, has been reclaimed and buried in earth. Visitors and guests have the chance to explore a section that has been left open for display. Two dwellings with sleeping rooms, courtyards with wells, a section of a roadway with a storm drain, a piece of an exterior defense wall, and other fascinating things may all be seen here.
Over 20 burgs similar to Arkaim have been discovered in the Southern Transuralia. This region is now known as the Land of Cities, or the Sintashta civilization, in scholarly parlance. The Indo-Iranian people of the Middle Bronze Age are the source of these artifacts.
Stone Age dwellings and the Temir Mound
Next, you should go see a number of archaeological reconstructions located on the reserve's grounds. These are Stone Age dwellings and the Temir mound. Here, you may take cover from the scorching heat and observe the inside of structures built with natural materials.
The mound resembles a tiny, grass-covered pyramid-shaped hill from the outside. Between the 6th and 5th centuries BC, it housed the ancient tombs of aristocratic Sarmatian nomads. The museum features an exhibition of replicas and reconstructions of items the nomadic nobles had taken with them to the afterlife, discovered during the excavations of the Temir mound and similar structures.
The Temir Mound is one of the biggest archaeological monument restorations ever carried out in Russia.
"We spend the entire summer roaming the Southern Urals as tourists and spending the night in our contemporary tents. In Arkaim, we got our first glimpse of what comparable temporary homes on these vast steppes would have looked like some 5,000 years ago (in the 3rd millennium BC). Three Stone Age homes were reconstructed using wood, earth, reeds, clay, and sand. According to our guide, humans in the past could also use stone, brushwood, and even bones! A big family of up to 10 people could inhabit what seems to be a small "apartment," around 30 to 50 square metres in area. Such a semi-dugout had a fireplace in the center, multi-leveled sleeping bunks around the perimeter, and a ventilation opening at the top. We touched replicas and models, went up and down the stairs, and had a true nomad family experience."
The Alley of Menhirs is also close to the mound and the prehistoric dwellings. A number of stone idols date to the 17th-12th centuries BC (Bronze Age). They were brought to Arkaim from the nearby Kizilskiy Region and installed in full accordance with their initial arrangement. Menhirs are the most basic, crudely processed elongated stones put up vertically by a human. The term comes from the Lower Bretonian words, 'men' ('stone") and 'hir' ('long').
The 12-meter-long alley is made up of a single row of dug-in stones. Tetrahedral steles, which also show signs of processing by human hand, make up the majority of the stones. The row is oriented along the west-east axis. The Alley of Menhirs is an ancient cult place. It is known that astronomical observations were once made using it.
Probably one of the most romantic spots on our route. Grab your camera and capture this beautiful sunset in a picture. Feel the endless expanses of the steppe as you tread on the prickley grass and it spreads out in front of you.
By the way, this is the last windmill from the early 1900s still standing in Chelyabinsk Region. The mill was once owned by the Brazgulevsky brothers, who lived in the Kartalinsky Region and used it from around 1928 through the 1960s. The mill was then relocated to Arkaim in the late 1990s.
What is the best place to enjoy dawns and sunsets? It's Shamanka, of course! It is also known as Bald or Snake Mountain among locals.
In fact, though, it is a piece of the Ognenny Paleovolcano. A semi-submerged volcanic ridge similar to the still-existing Kuril Islands existed here around 350 million years ago, and the western portion of the current reserve contained an active volcano with a height of about 1,000 metres. Several thousand years ago, there were camp sites and settlements at the mountain's foot. Today, the mountain is not very tall anymore, at just 350 meters above sea level and 40 meters above the level of the Bolshaya Karaganka River.
It won't be challenging to climb, and the views from there will make you take a deep breath and fill you with the vigor and spirit of one of the reserve's most popular locations. The renowned Shamanka spirals will undoubtedly get you in a spin around the times. You can meditate, fantasize, relax, stroll around the man-made circles, or simply make a wish.
Contemplator art object
Every year, Arkaim inspires artists from all over Russia to produce works of art and sculptures outdoors. You'll find the reserve's newest structure right at the foot of Shamanka. This in the Contemplator.
What will you see when coming down the mountain slope? A man made of 300 metres of metal rod is seated on a massive 5-metre-tall wooden chair, holding a switchable luminous ball in his hands. Yekaterinburg-based artist Konstantin Yevdokimov, the sculpture's creator, was inspired to make it by one of Arkaim's primary symbols, an archaeological find known as Man Looking at the Sky, representing a stooped human figure.
The Arkaim Nature Reserve protects not only the Urals' historical and cultural legacy but also the breathtaking steppe environment around it. Vegetation here is mainly represented by various types of grasses, as well as small birch and aspen forests. Visitors are urged not to trample or rip up the grass, since there are 21 red-listed plant species, six endemics, and six relics here, protected in the reserve.
Where to stay
Using a private vehicle is the most practical method to go from Chelyabinsk to Arkaim. You'll leave southward along the Troitsky highway through Korkino, Yemanzhelinsk, Yuzhnouralsk, Plast, Stepnoye, and Buranny, and keep traveling until reaching the Arkaim Nature Reserve. Distance from Chelyabinsk: about 420 km. Travel time: about 5-6 hours.
We advise using Yandex Maps and setting the Administration of the Tourist Camp at the Arkaim Nature Reserve as the destination of the drive, or using the 52.645347, 59.550120 coordinates.
Magnitogorsk is home to the airport closest to the reserve. From there, it is 160 kilometers to Arkaim, which may be traveled in a hired car or in a group with other tourists. There's no direct bus service from Magnitogorsk to Arkaim.
Flying to the Chelyabinsk Balandino airport and then taking a direct bus in the evening is another option. This way, you will be there in the morning.
A regular seasonal bus running along the Yekaterinburg - Chelyabinsk - Arkaim route. It departs every Friday at 9:00 p.m. from outside the Circus (43 March 8 Street) in Yekaterinburg, and at 12:00 a.m. from the Scarlet Field in Chelyabinsk. The bus comes back from Arkaim on Sunday at 1 p.m. Call +7-912-66-66-906 to clarify the availability and cost of travel.
You can buy tours to Arkaim from local travel agencies. You can search for 'Bus tour to Arkaim' online and settle on the perfect route and company.